Thank Goodness that Argument is Over: Explaining the Temporal Value AsymmetrySkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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An important feature of life is the temporal value asymmetry. Not to be confused with temporal discounting, the value asymmetry is the fact that we prefer future rather than past preferences be satisfied. Misfortunes are better in the past--where they are "over and done"--than in the future. Using recent work in empirical psychology and evolutionary theory, we develop a theory of the nature and causes of the temporal value asymmetry. The account we develop undercuts philosophy of time arguments such as that of Prior (1959), but more importantly, also begins a serious study of an interesting but understudied feature of our valuations and emotional attitudes. While in the spirit of certain past sketches about the possible origins of the temporal value asymmetry, our theory improves on them in many significant respects and suggests many clear avenues of future study. More generally, our hope is that work on the temporal value asymmetry will eventually attain the degree of rigor and explanatory power that the discounting asymmetry presently enjoys, for like this latter asymmetry, we believe the temporal value asymmetry has relevance to many practical issues in decision-making. Our paper can thus be seen as a call for a more unified methodological treatment of the two temporal asymmetries.